*Ask Karen Cooper what the Confederate flag stands for and you may do a double take.
Contrary to what many black people think, Cooper sees the flag in an entirely different light than the one where it is viewed as well-known symbol of racism and oppression.
“I actually think that it represents freedom,” Cooper, a passionate black tea party supporter shared in a video interview that’s been getting exposure online. “It represents a people who stood up to tyranny.”
According to The Washington Post, Cooper is a member of the Virginia Flaggers, an activist group that rejects the idea that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and hate.
The video of Cooper is part of “Battle Flag,” a film billed as “an ongoing documentary about the place and meaning of the Confederate battle flag, 150 years after the Civil War.”
As a member of the Flaggers, Cooper’s views on the flag is one and the same as she publicly displays the Confederate flag with feelings of pride and reverence. For critics of the flag, Cooper points out that she wouldn’t be accepted as a member of a group primarily made up of white Southerners if the flag was a racist symbol.
“I’m not advocating slavery or think that, you know, it was right. It wasn’t, and none of my friends think it was. It was just something that happened. It didn’t just happen in the South, it happened worldwide,” she said in the video while adding that slavery is “a choice.”
“I say that because of what Patrick Henry said: ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’ To me, if we had went back to that kind of slavery, no I couldn’t do it. Give me death.”
The emergence of the “Battle Flag” documentary and Cooper’s support of the flag comes amid widespread calls for the flag to be removed from the state Capital in South Carolina that have dominated news since the tragic shooting of nine worshippers at Emmanuel AME Church last month.
Despite the outcry, The Post cited a 2014 Winthrop University poll that illustrated mixed feelings on the flag among blacks in South Carolina. According to the poll, 61 percent of black South Carolina residents said the flag should no longer fly on the state house grounds. Countering that a surprising 27 percent of black South Carolinians that say the flag should stay.
Despite understanding the hate the Confederate flag has generated among people, Byron Thomas counts himself among the flag’s defenders.
In an op-ed he wrote last week for the Post, the African American University of South Carolina student mentioned that the flag was stolen by hate groups, which resulted in its banishment from many public settings. For Thomas taking down the flag would be the same as letting the racists win.
“I’m entitled to my beliefs and how I choose to use a symbol,” he argued. “My Confederate flag isn’t racist; after all, I am black. I’m also an American who strongly believes in the constitutional right to free speech.”
For more of the Washington Post’s story on Karen Cooper and other black Confederate flag defenders, click here.
To see Cooper’s “Battle Flag” appearance, check out the video at the top of the story.
Editor’s note: This story was previously published on July 2, 2015